Buyers Owe It To IHA Exhibitors To Use Extra Day

Let the debate begin.
The International Housewares Association board of directors boldly approved the addition of a half day to the 2012 International Home + Housewares Show, reintroducing a four-day schedule for the show not seen since 2001.
Most exhibitors contacted by HomeWorld Business about the decision don’t dispute with the theoretical benefits of an extended show that could help buyers with multiple category responsibilities canvass the show more productively (see HomeWorld’s May 30, 2011, issue for more coverage of the Housewares Show extension and industry reaction).
And most agreed adding a half day to the front of the show, on a Saturday afternoon when most key industry players and many buyers already are in Chicago, holds more promise than tacking a half day to the end of the show.
More suppliers seem optimistic, or at least open-minded, about the longer show than I expected.

More Face Time
The stumbling block for exhibitors: While retailers might enjoy added flexibility in their show schedules, exhibitors must incur incremental T&E costs and man hours to have booths and staffs ready to go a day earlier, with no guarantee of more retail traffic the opening afternoon and reason to believe a typically slower final day of the show on Tuesday could see a steeper traffic decline.
Larger exhibiting companies will face the biggest cost increase from the extended show, now set for March 10 to 13, 2012. But I know some small, entrepreneurial companies that would be stung more personally by the added expense, whatever the amount, yet still would welcome the chance to offset that with more buyer face time during a longer show.
Nothing stings more than potential that goes unfulfilled. And yes, the show extension has potential to quell some of the angst by exhibitors that feel they didn’t have a vote in the matter if they come away with even a modest measure of progress unlocked by the extended show schedule.

Footing The Bill
The exhibitors have no option but to be fully prepared from the opening to the closing bells at McCormick Place. That puts the onus squarely on the retailers— the constituency specifically for which the IHA said it gift-wrapped the extra day— with plenty of options on what to do with the additional show time to make it worthwhile for exhibitors footing much of the bill for the extra day.
Veteran department store housewares merchant Mike Nemoir, gmm at Bon-Ton Stores, summed it up best: “Now given extra time, we must use it wisely and productively.” Emphasis on “must.”

Bigger Return
Independent retailers rushed by the three-day show, especially if they’re bumped from booths when entourages from national retailers walk in, seem most likely to take advantage of the Saturday start even if it means being away from their stores on the busiest day. The extra show day also should appeal to international buyers seeking a bigger return on what already is a lengthy commitment in Chicago.
However, if notably more buyers from U.S. national and regional chains are unwilling to give up the entire weekend and don’t seize the chance to start Saturday and cover the show more comprehensively, it could leave everyone feeling empty.
The IHA says it will work with retailers and buying groups to help them capitalize on the extra exhibit time. By freezing booth rates and negotiating new hotel deals for exhibitors, the IHA has demonstrated reasonable sensitivity to the added cost burden.
Adding a fourth day to the show can’t please everyone. But it must please a solid majority of the show’s stakeholders to have any chance at sticking.
The IHA gave retailers the extra show time many said they needed. Now, those retailers owe it to exhibitors to make good use of that time.
And maybe even silence the debate.